This evening I had one of those encounters;
We were out for a meal at the local Indian restaurant.
Head Waiter: You from Yemen?
I get this in various iterations, usually when I meet someone from a different culture, often an immigrant to the UK – folk from Greece, Turkey, Egypt – countries where more of the people have dark eyes and dark hair than the UK; I guess my complexion is a little dark, although this depends on the season.
When I was a teenager, before my hair fell-out and I went about with not quite frizzy, but certainly curly hair, I was often asked about my Yemenite origins, or, perhaps somewhere in North Africa; Algeria, Morocco?
I have sometimes pondered my ancestry.
I haven’t done one of those genetic buccal smear tests yet, although, perhaps one day.
I am fairly clear about my recent family-tree; Glasgow(Gorbals)/Newcastle(Byker), with origins in Russia (?Latvia) and Poland, although, this with all the genealogy and historical wanderings of 18th Century Jews, is likely open to conjecture.
If you take the biblical interpretation – the one on which the State of Israel is predicated, my long-long-ago relatives were either exiled from the Land of Israel in 580 BC, with a transport up the Mediterranean to Babylon – Iraq, or following the subsequent return to The Land, in 70AD when the Romans kicked us out.
Everyone’s genes are a little murky. And, I know it confuses folk when they ask the, ‘Where are you from question,’ when, my answer is really the content of this blog, but I can’t often be bothered to go into such details with passing strangers or, head waiters.
All of this seems to come close to racial stereotypes of the Near and Middle-East; I am the way I am because of evolution and inter-breeding; my kids are half Jewish – possibly the first organised break-away from the mainstream in my family’s history barring the odd Cossack mishap/Persian romp.
It is interesting, when I am in Israel, particularly when it is summer-time and I am tanned, I usually fit-in; only this December when waiting for my sister-in-law to determine the cost of a watermelon did someone mistake me for a market trader – this in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv; a place of insane trading and Eastern charm.
Fitting-in with the crowd; how intriguing.
A few blogs ago I wrote about my chocolate-boy experiences as a youngster at school in Glasgow; most of the other kids in my class were fair, some blue eyed, others with ginger hair and freckles, that is the Scottish archetype. I wasn’t one of those.
I think of Colin Wilson in the 50’s writing about his situation as an outsider, reflecting Sartre, Camus and Dostoevsky; each of us inside the society but somehow also locked-out, staring-in, uninvited guests at the party; gate-crashers. How nice to fit-in, to belong.
This was more than I had bargained-for in requesting Aloo gosht;